Did you ever wonder why new vehicles have window stickers? Many
think they are meant to show your neighbors that you bought a new car,
or to annoy you with the glue residue on the window, but this is not the case.
In March of 1958, Senator Michael Monroney, Chairman of the Senate
Subcommittee on Automobile Marketing Practices, proposed a bill that
would take the mystery out of new car prices. This bill required every
automobile manufacturer to attach a label to the window of each new
vehicle, which would show the manufacturer's suggested retail price,
transport methods, freight charges, and accessory prices. This would be
the first time in twenty years that a consumer could walk into an
automobile dealership and find an itemized, accurate price tag on a new
Prior to the proposal of this bill, there was often a large discrepancy
between the showroom price and the actual price of a new vehicle. The
fact was that existing price tags did not tell the full story. Most
customer-quoted prices were for "stripped-down" models and did not
include additions for preparation charges, freight charges, federal,
state, and local taxes, or optional factory-installed equipment
requested by the purchaser.
These hidden charges were used by some dealers to increase the selling
price while giving the new vehicle buyer an inflated idea of their
trade-in allowance. This price confusion led to a slump in auto sales
during the early 1950's. Senator Monroney's bill was designed to
prevent the abuse of the new vehicle list prices, but would not,
however, prevent dealers and buyers from bargaining over vehicle prices.
Senator Monroney received widespread support for this bill from both
consumers and dealers. Dealers viewed the Monroney Label as an
opportunity to restore the confidence of the new vehicle buyers, which
they hoped would result in a more successful sales year.
On July 7, 1958, Monroney's bill became a law. Beginning on September
1, 1958, every automobile manufacturer was required to securely affix a
label to the window of the vehicle, disclosing information concerning
the vehicle and its price. Any manufacturer who failed to comply, could
be levied a fine of not more than $1000. Removal, alteration, or
illegibility of the required label could result in a fine of not more
than $1000 and/or imprisonment of not more than one year.
Once enacted, the law increased both dealer morale and auto sales.
Customers grew more confident in their ability to make an informed
decision and get the best deal possible. This law was instrumental in
brightening industry-wide automobile sales during that time, by
increasing consumer confidence.
In this day and age, we tend to take window stickers for granted, but
the next time you are out shopping for a new Chevy, you can
thank Senator Michael Monroney for making your job much easier.